Come Sail Away

Photography by Craig Sterken
Wenonah Park, Tall Ship Celebration
Tall Ships and crowds line the banks of the Saginaw River at Bay City’s Wenonah Park.

Take a step back to sailing’s yesteryear when the 2019 Tall Ship Celebration makes its only Michigan stop in Bay City from July 18-21. Visitors will be able to board and tour nine ships, including some favorites that have been in every Bay City tall ship event: the brig Niagara, a replica of an 1812 warship from Erie, Pennsylvania; the schooner The Pride of Baltimore; and the Madeline, a schooner from Traverse City.

Tall Ships
Nine tall ships can be boarded and explored during Tall Ship Celebration.

“Bay City is within a reasonable driving distance of any place in the state,” event producer Shirley Roberts said. “It’s a very well-rounded festival that’s family-friendly.”

This is the seventh time Bay City has hosted the tall ships. The celebration kicks off from noon-5 p.m. July 18 when the ships sail into Bay City. Visitors can’t board the ships that day, but they can from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The ships will dock on both sides of the Saginaw River between Veteran’s Memorial Bridge and Liberty Bridge. Free shuttles will be available to take guests to either side.

New to the Great Lakes is the Picton Castle, a barque out of the Cook Islands. The famous schooner Bluenose II from Nova Scotia was last here in 2001. Other tall ships include the three-masted schooner Denis Sullivan from Milwaukee; Perception, a schooner out of Traverse City; the Nao Santa Maria, a square-rigged replica of Columbus’ ship, from Spain; and the St. Lawrence II, a brigantine from Kingston, Ontario.

“Bay City is within a reasonable driving distance of any place in the state. It’s a very well-rounded festival that’s family-friendly.”
Shirley Roberts

Two more ships, the Appledore IV and Appledore V, gaff schooners out of Bay City, are available for day sails from downtown Bay City into Saginaw Bay. Guests are encouraged to join in and help raise the sails, although it’s not required.

Tall Ship Celebration organizers said it could be three years before the ships return. The locations change each year as they visit ports on the Atlantic, Pacific and Great Lakes in turn. The national organization is considering a fourth venue, in the Gulf of Mexico, so it could be four years before there’s another chance to see them.

El Galeon deck
The view on the deck of El Galeon.

After ship tours, Ballads and Brews begins at 5 p.m. at the Quarter Deck in Veteran’s Memorial Park, with nautical music and craft beers from Michigan breweries.

Visitors need to purchase an admission ticket each day to enter the park and a passport is required to tour the ships. The passport is good for three days. Admission tickets are $8 per day before June 30, $10 per day after June 30. The one-time passport is $8 before June 30 and $10 after. Tickets to sail on the Appledore IV and Appledore V are $65. Visitors also can buy a ticket to be aboard a ship as they sail into the harbor on Thursday for $100.

Tickets available at

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